- A surge in COVID-19 cases across the US is encouraging would-be travelers to cancel their holiday flights.
- Four major US airlines have eliminated change and cancel fees permanently, while others have travel waivers to make it easier to cancel when plans change.
- Most airlines won’t offer a refund, however, unless a flight is canceled or there is a schedule change, so flyers should be strategic when they cancel.
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The airline industry’s hope for an air travel resurgence during the holiday season may be dashed as some travelers are looking to avoid flying amid a coronavirus surge.
Rising COVID-19 cases and new lockdown orders from governors across the US that limit how many people can be at Thanksgiving dinner are forcing travelers to rethink their holiday plans. And for some, that means staying off of airplanes, despite the industry’s push to show that flying is safe.
For those looking to stay home, airlines are being more flexible this year out of any year prior when it comes to changing plans. In the US, four major airlines eliminated change and cancel fees permanently in an effort to increase bookings despite the ever-changing landscape of the pandemic.
American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, and Alaska Airlines have done away with the fees, normally a huge revenue driver, while others have waivers to allow limited changes with restrictions.
But even though airlines are using words like change and cancel, the policies often have restrictions about which travelers are often unaware. While there might not be a change fee, for example, customers will have to pay any difference in airfare.
Here’s what you need to know about changing or canceling a booking as coronavirus continues to impact travel.
Four major US airlines are eliminating change and cancel fees for domestic and limited international travel
United Airlines was the first major international airline to eliminate change fees over the summer for its flights within the US or to the Caribbean and Mexico. Passengers with economy tickets and above, excluding basic economy, can make changes or cancellations as many times as they’d like.
Award ticket holders can similarly make changes or cancel their flights. In order for the miles to be redeposited without a fee, however, the passenger must cancel greater than 30 days from the day of departure.
Passengers with basic economy tickets who book or have booked their flights before December 31, 2020, are able to change their flights under United’s earlier change fee waiver.
Travelers can rebook or cancel on United’s website, mobile app, or by calling 1-800-864-8331.
American Airlines’ new policy is a bit broader and includes the US, Mexico, Canada, and the Caribbean, as well as all “long-haul international” trips that originate in North or South America, though American hasn’t yet defined which routes classify as long-haul international. Ticket